A New and Glorious Morn

Isaiah 7.10-17

Our world is not so different from Ahaz’s world. The threat of war and rumors of war abound. Fear is on the rise, and wickedness reigns throughout the land. If we are honest with ourselves, we too are tempted to make alliances…compromises to ensure our well-being. We put our trust in jobs or bank accounts or status or retirement plans or followers or people or you fill-in-the-blank to save us…anything other than the Lord. And being overwhelmed by the circumstances of life, we forget that Jesus promised that He would never leave us or forsake us.

Inevitably God brings us into crisis…illness, death of a loved one, loss of a job, broken relationships, dashed hopes, forgotten dreams. Sooner or later we all have to answer the question: If I put my trust in God, will He save me? Does He really love me, and does He really care about me and my circumstances? Our answer is either a confident “yes” or a wavering “I’m not sure.” Is God “the LORD God” (Yahweh Elohim), the covenant-making, covenant-keeping God who is intimately involved in His creation (Genesis 2-3) who knows me and loves me and cares about me, or is He “God” (Elohim), the God who is out there, too big and too busy to be bothered with me, who only is looking out for His own interests according to the serpent in Genesis 3? And just as folks in Isaiah’s day found out…when God’s people don’t trust Him as they should, they pay a price for it. If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all (cf. Isaiah 7.9b). But God’s grace always has the last word—His grace triumphs over our failure. God, the LORD God, is present in our crises. If we will trust Him, He will save us. If we refuse Him, He will discipline us. But know this…He delights to save us.

Are you making alliances or compromises to save yourself, or are you trusting God? Your level of worry/fear/discontentment vs. contentment/joy/rest is a good indicator. The more you trust in God, the more the fruits of the Spirit will abound. The more you trust yourself…not so much.

Jesus says, “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” The secret to experiencing the life that God has saved us for starts with believing that He loves us…really loves us…and resting in His love. And to do that, we have to do what He says, knowing that what He commands is for our good as His children, then we can experience both the life and the fullness of joy He intended for us…we might call it a new and glorious morn.

There is a haunting Christmas carol that says, “O come, O come, Emmanuel, And ransom captive Israel, That mourns in lonely exile here, Until the Son of God appear…Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.” The music to this carol is written in a minor key…or so they tell me. Can joy be found in a minor key? Can there be joy in difficult circumstances? The answer is a resounding “yes” if we remember Immanuel…that God is with us and is for us, and if we remember that He has an eternal home waiting for us.

Even though Ahaz is a wicked king, God graciously invites him to trust in Him. If you have not yet trusted in Jesus as your Savior, then God offers the same gracious invitation to you. He wants you to trust Him, then you too can experience a new and glorious morn…the joy that only Jesus can bring, knowing that He is with you always. But don’t wait. The time is short. Just as God is with those of us who have trusted in Him for salvation, so He is also with those who refuse Him for judgment. 

May you experience a new and glorious morn this Christmas season, Immanuel…God with us, and may you trust Him fully in all of life’s circumstances.

Join us next week as we continue our Advent story with…Fall on Your Knees.

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This post is based on our Advent Series, The Thrill of Hope. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

The Weary World Rejoices

2 Samuel 7.8-16

David was a great king in many ways. He was fearless and passionate, strong and brave. He loved the Lord and his family. But David wasn’t the King God had promised. Solomon, his son, was also an outstanding king. Maybe even greater than his father. His wisdom was renowned. He was a brilliant strategist. He was wealthy beyond imagination. But he too fell far short of the King God had promised. There have been many kings and great leaders throughout history, but as amazing as anyone of them may have been, none comes even close to our coming King. He’s the King of righteousness and the King of peace. He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. He alone will rule over the nations of this earth. And when He comes, the weary world will rejoice.

The good news is…the King has come. Jesus has come…and for a time the weary world rejoiced. The long-awaited Messiah, the Davidic King, the Hero…had come, but not as a Mighty Warrior or a Roaring Lion. He came as a helpless Babe, a Sacrificial Lamb. He came to bring peace…a peace that was only possible through His own shed blood. A peace that could only be had when sin was atoned for and death was defeated. A peace that was only available through the cross. And having secured that peace, three days later Jesus rose from the dead. He conquered both sin and death so that our hope…our long awaited hope…could be realized. And so the weary world rejoices.

In Romans 8.18-25, Paul says, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. 20For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. 23And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. 24For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? 25But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.”

We live in the midst of a weary world. A world that longs for peace. A world that longs for wrongs to be righted. A world that longs for a Savior. But it is a world seeking salvation in all the wrong things…wealth, politics, fame, advantage, relationships, you-name-it. And we too sometimes get caught up in the world’s solutions, don’t we? But what this weary world needs is only available in Jesus…only He can bring peace. Only He can set things right. Only He can save. It’s the hope that we have that a weary world needs. And it’s a hope that we need to share with a weary world.

One day our King will return. As believers, that is our hope. That Jesus will return and establish His eternal kingdom…an enduring kingdom…the true kingdom. Not an earthly dynasty destined to end, but an everlasting rule over heaven and earth. And when He comes, the weary world will rejoice…the creation’s groaning will be over. Jesus will reign supreme.

May you rejoice and worship Jesus as your King this Christmas season.

Join us next week as we continue our Advent story with…A New and Glorious Morn.

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This post is based on our Advent Series, The Thrill of Hope. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Authority Questioned

Luke 20.1-18

Who’s in charge? By what authority do You do these things and who gave You the authority? The parable of the vine-growers is Jesus’ response to the question of authority. As the beloved Son of the Father, Jesus’ authority comes from God. Although He may be rejected by the religious leaders, Jesus is still the long-awaited King who brings the kingdom. And those who reject Him will face certain judgment.

The leaders didn’t want Jesus to be King. They questioned His authority. They rebelled against His sovereignty. But why? Why did they reject Jesus? If He is clearly the Hero they had been looking for all along, why didn’t they throw a big party and celebrate? Here’s my theory. Maybe they really didn’t want a King…maybe they didn’t want Someone messing with their stuff…maybe they liked being in charge. Sound familiar?

Jesus has all authority in heaven and on earth…the authority to forgive sins, the authority to give spiritual life, the authority to heal diseases and cast out demons and calm the storm and raise the dead. He has authority over every sphere of life. Jesus has authority, but do we recognize it? How often do you or I question Jesus’ authority in our own lives? Even though we may have made Him King, we still like to grab control at times, don’t we? When it comes to our relationships or our finances, do we really want Jesus to be King? When it comes to our careers or our popularity, do we really want to submit to His rulership? Do we really want to recognize His authority in every area of our lives? Is He really King?

Let me challenge you this week to ask yourself, have I given Jesus authority over every area of my life? If not, what areas are you holding back and why? The LORD is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness and relenting of evil. He is Creator-God, and He knows what’s best. Do you believe that? Do you believe that He loves you and cares about the things that are impacting your life? Then why not surrender those areas you’ve been holding back and trust that He has your best interest at heart?

If you have not yet trusted in Jesus, don’t wait. The stone can be a place of refuge or source of destruction. Recognize your need for repentance. Believe that Jesus can save you, and trust Him to do so. Put Him in charge today.

Until next time…stay salty.

This post is based on a sermon from our series in the book of Luke. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster

Suffering Before Glory

Luke 9.28-45

When we began the Luke series last fall, one of the things we talked about…what Luke wanted us to do as we read through his Gospel…is to examine the evidence so that we might be able to answer the question, “Who is Jesus?”

We’ve come a long ways since then, and no doubt we still have a ways to go. Now we’ve reached a pivotal point in Luke’s story. Last week Peter rightly answered our question for us…“Who is Jesus?” He is the Christ of God. But what does that mean? The disciples thought that they knew what it meant…a Conquering King bringing in a glorious kingdom. The overthrow of Rome and Israel once again in a place of prominence on the world stage. And while Isaiah talked about a Suffering Servant and there were hints of adversity to come (Genesis 3.15), still Jewish folks living in the 1st century were expecting a fierce Warrior-Messiah like David.

While there were plenty of OT prophesies to justify their expectations, there were also personal reasons why folks would want a Conquering King…we all want to be on the winning side. Their expectations weren’t wrong, just mistimed. Jesus will come back as Conquering King. Everyone who is on His side will win with Him. But first He would be the Suffering Servant. Suffering before glory.

I think sometimes we have a similar timing problem. We like the glory part. We like the kingdom part. But we don’t like the suffering part. And if we are honest with ourselves, many times we do anything we can to avoid it. We want to follow Jesus without cost or consequence. And yet the constant testimony of Jesus and the rest of the NT is that suffering is a fundamental part of the Christian life. But the good news is…we are never alone in suffering for Jesus. Somehow Paul says that we can experience the perfect peace of God in the midst of chaos, joy in the midst of pain, hope in the deepest darkness. We don’t have to give up or give in because Jesus wins. And we have a heavenly Father who delights in us and desires our good, who loves us so completely that we will spend an eternity trying to comprehend it.

Sometimes ours isn’t a timing problem, but a “Who is Jesus?” problem. We are looking for a Jesus who meets our expectations. We want Jesus to rescue us from our sins, but we don’t want Him to change us too much. We want Him to heal us or fix our marriage or solve our financial problems…we want Him to be Savior in lots of ways, but we don’t really want to listen to Him. We don’t want His words sinking into our ears. We don’t want Him to be Lord of our lives. We want Him to make much of us…we don’t want to make much of Him.

But Jesus is both Savior and Lord. He is Suffering Servant and Conquering King. He is both Lamb and Lion.

Maybe today is the day that you need to let Jesus’ words sink into your ears. Maybe today is the day that you need to see Him in all His glory as both Suffering Servant and Conquering King. Maybe today is the day that you need to recommit to following Jesus, no matter what the cost. Maybe today is the day that you need to be reminded that suffering comes before glory.

Until next time…stay salty.

“May we be willing to follow Jesus in both the good and the hard times this week.”

This post is based on a sermon from our Luke series, Live & Love Like Jesus. Download the podcast at: Central Christian Church Main Service, or follow us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter: @ccclancaster